Taiwan Admiral’s Death Signals End of China’s Lost Generation
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Ku “Nelson” Chung-lien, the retired admiral considered to be one of the last of the China-born political heavyweights who escaped the Chinese Civil War to seek refuge in Taiwan, died Jan. 15 of cancer. He was 76.
Ku’s loss is considered a major detriment to continued modernization of the Taiwan military. He was viewed as one of the few military and political personalities in Taiwan with close ties to the U.S. military and government.
Born in Shanghai in 1931, Ku graduated from the Chinese Naval Academy in 1954. He was one of the last to attend the U.S. Naval War College in 1977 before the United States and Taiwan broke off diplomatic relations in 1979, after Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
Ku rose to commander in chief of the Navy from 1994-’97, and retired to serve as the de facto Taiwan ambassador to the Netherlands from 1997-2000. Taiwan had purchased two diesel electric submarines from the Netherlands in the 1980s, and there were hopes that Ku could convince the Dutch government to ignore Beijing’s protests and agree to sell more.
The effort was in vain, and Ku returned to Taiwan to enter politics as a legislator for the People’s First Party in 2002. As a member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, Ku pushed for the purchase of Aegis-equipped destroyers from the United States. Ku also supported the purchase of U.S.-built P-3 Orion aircraft, but wanted the sale to be linked with better guarantees from Washington to defend Taiwan.
Ku made a controversial visit to Beijing in 2005 to meet with members of the Chinese Communist Party and refused to reveal details of those meetings with the Taiwan government.
The Ministry of National Defense is preparing a ceremony to mark his passing.